NAZA’s mission is to increase youths’ equitable access to out-of-school time learning experiences that help youth thrive and develop to their full potential.
A Systems Approach
Established in 2009 by then Mayor Karl Dean, the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) is a partnership between the Nashville Public Library, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Mayor’s Office, and over 20 youth-serving organizations all working collaboratively to improve the learning experiences of youth. Mayor Dean launched NAZA as a dropout prevention strategy after studying the link between participation in quality afterschool programming and student success in school. This year, NAZA is celebrating 10 years as a nationally-recognized citywide system of aftershcool and summer programs in Nashville.
The need for NAZA is demonstrated by the following statistics:
As an out-of-school time system, NAZA supports holistic child & youth development through funding and support services to:
Help youth build social, emotional, and cognitive skills that will help them thrive in education, life, and work.
Support academic learning and development of technical skills, focused on helping youth with grade promotion and post-secondary/career exposure.
Help youth cultivate positive values, mindsets, and beliefs that help them navigate their relationships and world.
NAZA’s philosophy is anchored in diversifying learning environments and methods to engage youth in learning based on their interests and choices. We believe that effective learning for 21st century youth happens when youth have opportunities to solve real-world challenges, explore the rapidly-changing world around them, participate meaningfully, and learn new skills that are of interest to them.
Mayor Karl Dean launched NAZA in 2010 to provide an afterschool system for middle school youth as part of a strategy to increase the high school graduation rate. After extensive benchmarking with national organizations and other cities, the NAZA Leadership Council adopted a charter, framework and structure.
This came in response to a key recommendation of the Project for Student Success the previous year. Its findings in part: “The city is sorely lacking in programs and opportunities for middle and high school students in particular. Existing programs may not match the needs of youth in high-risk neighborhoods for accessible locations, targeted social and educational interventions, and hours of operation.”
Students can’t participate in afterschool sports teams until sixth grade. The “early warning indicators” of high school drop-out (school attendance, school behavior and course completion) fall steadily during the middle school years in Metro.
NAZA has expanded by an additional After Zone every year since 2010, until its fifth Zone made the network virtually countywide in 2014. In 2011, the Wallace Foundation selected NAZA for its Next Generation Afterschool Systems Building Initiative. In 2012, NAZA was invited to join the national collaborative Every Hour Counts.
Although incubated in the Mayor’s Office, NAZA transitioned to a permanent home within Community Engagement at Nashville Public Library in mid-2014. The story of this transition was summarized in a case study, This Is NAZA, with support from The Wallace Foundation.